Social media is still nearly unendurable —

Social media this week seems to consist of 90% emoting about the election and only 10% pretty pictures of the super moon. I can personally take only about a minute and a half of skimming through Facebook or Twitter right now. Possibly some of you feel the same way. Thus, on this one-week anniversary of election day, we might all be able to use another post about good things that are going on. So —

First, I don’t really believe this, but it seems possible that the magical EM Drive might work:

The EM Drive has made headlines over the past year, because it offers the incredible possibility of a fuel-free propulsion system that could potentially get us to Mars in just 70 days. But there’s one major problem: according to the current laws of physics, it shouldn’t work. .. Last year, NASA’s Eagleworks Laboratory got involved to try to independently verify or debunk the EM Drive once and for all. And a new paper on its tests in late 2015 has just been leaked, showing that not only does the EM Drive work – it also generates some pretty impressive thrust.

This sounds neat: Future Electric Car Will Have an Augmented Reality Navigation System

“Augmented” here refers to augmented reality, where projections are used to display information as if it’s 50 feet ahead of the driver. With this technology, the I.D. will be able to project street directions in a way that looks like they’re on the actual roads, as shown above. [Click through to see the picture.]

Giant pandas have been removed from the endangered species list!

Finally some good news in the animal kingdom – the giant panda has been removed from the endangered species act after significant population growth over the last decade. They are now listed as “vulnerable” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s red list. In 2009, officials declared the panda would go extinct within three generations without concerted measures to save them, according to Science Alert. Now, despite extraordinary odds, there are said to be roughly 2,060 pandas living in the wild – up 17 percent since China first instilled wide-ranging protective measures.

So have Humpback Whales!

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) said on Monday that nine of the 14 distinct populations of humpbacks would be removed, while four distinct populations remain listed as endangered and one as threatened.

“Today’s news is a true ecological success story,” said Eileen Sobeck, assistant NOAA administrator for fisheries. “Whales, including the humpback, serve an important role in our marine environment.”
Kayaker captures video of humpback whales feasting in San Francisco Bay
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Last year the NMFS, an office of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa), proposed that humpbacks be split into 14 population segments, allowing for 10 populations to be removed from the endangered list.

It said populations of the animals had steadily grown since the international community banned commercial whaling nearly 50 years ago.

From medicine, I see that genetically engineered immune cells are saving the lives of cancer patients.

The doctors looking at Layla Richards saw a little girl with leukemia bubbling in her veins. She’d had bags and bags of chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant. But the cancer still thrived. By last June, the 12-month-old was desperately ill. Her parents begged—wasn’t there anything?

There was. In a freezer at her hospital—Great Ormond Street, in London—sat a vial of white blood cells. The cells had been genetically altered to hunt and destroy leukemia, but the hospital hadn’t yet sought permission to test them. They were the most extensively engineered cells ever proposed as a therapy, with a total of four genetic changes, two of them introduced by the new technique of genome editing….In November, Great Ormond announced that Layla was cured.

Of course the full story is more complicated, but still.

Brain and Spine Implants Let a Paralyzed Monkey Walk Again

Researchers conducted a proof-of-concept study using two monkeys with partial spinal cord injuries, which prevented brain commands from reaching a back leg. The researchers used electrodes implanted in the monkeys’ brains to record electrical signals from the motor cortex, the part of the brain that controls movement. They used a computer to decode those signals and translate them into commands sent to other electrodes implanted in the monkeys’ lumbar spines; those electrodes stimulated the spinal cord. This brain-spine interface (BSI) bypassed the injured part of the spinal cord, allowing the monkeys’ natural movement commands to reach their injured legs.

Study coauthor David Borton, a neuroengineer at Brown University, says he was surprised by how effortlessly the animals took to the technology.

Faster, please! This has been one SF concept that’s seemed practically within reach for a decade. Wouldn’t it be great to see fast development of this technique!

Lots of great things are happening every day. Let’s all take a moment to appreciate that.

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6 thoughts on “Social media is still nearly unendurable —”

  1. Huh. I found out that Bald Eagles were no longer endangered a few years ago (as you know), but never really followed that up to see how many other species have been saved. Whales are recovering?

    The EM Drive thing is the most astonishing news, if only it were believable. But disproving one of Newton’s Laws of Motion — well, that’s going to need some pretty serious evidence.

  2. Humpbacks, anyway! Right whales are in terrible shape; I think the whole population is in the hundreds, not thousands. But I think most whale species have some stable populations now.

    Yeah, it will take a lot to convince me about the EM Drive. On the other hand, think of how exciting it would be to find out that Newton’s third law was not quiiiite complete.

  3. As far as I can tell, the EM drive would prove the existence of the Ether. There’s nothing else the nutty thing could be pushing against. You need a lot more than 7 sigma to prove this. Right now they are running at around 3.

  4. Here is the good news that keeps me going…yesterday was the 13th anniversary of my sons bone marrow transplant. We celebrated over the weekend at his daughter’s 7th birthday party. Two long chemotherapy filled hospital stays and a small dose right before the bone marrow transplant couldn’t stop him from having a girl and a boy! Whenever I’m feeling down I repeat my mantra “James is alive” and all my troubles go away.
    The icing on the (birthday) cake was the Star Wars theme for the party and my granddaughter wearing a blue and white R2D2 dress.

  5. That is wonderful news Bret, even though I only know you through comments here. We struggle with health in my family, so hearing of health issues improving and life getting better just brightens my day.

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